Let them eat steak

The library monster needs a hearty meal now and then, and occasionally, this comes in the form of steak. I don’t know why people are intimidated with the thought of cooking steak because it’s a pretty easy dish.

Seasoning a steak need not be complicated. I’ve found that a combination of kosher salt, black pepper, and onion powder nicely compliments the flavor of a steak.

Sprinkle these spices onto both sides of your steaks, and let the steaks marinate for at least thirty minutes. If you want to, season your steaks the day before and let them marinate for twenty-four hours.

If you’ve been hesitant to cook steak because either you dread the hassle of grilling or you lack the proper equipment, let me assure you that a nice grill pan will still provide you with great results. Make sure that you give the pan five to ten minutes to warm up over medium-high high heat. I personally prefer a cast-iron grill pan (enameling is optional).

While the pan is heating, take the opportunity to assemble that salad or other side dish that you may want to accompany your steaks. Unless you are eating a tiny steak, I see no reason to complicate things with potatoes, but that is your decision. Once the cooking begins, you’ll want to be able to devote your entire attention to the steaks.

So this is the point where you finally get to cook the steaks. Simply place the steaks in the pan.

When it comes to timing the cooking of your steaks, experience is your best guide. I look for a few signs to guide me. To decide when to flip the steaks, I usually look for browning halfway up the sides of the steaks.

After the flip, watch for browning to complete on the sides of the steaks. Of course, you can always check for coloring by lifting the steaks to see underneath. And if you want to get fancy, rotate the steaks ninety degrees in the pan to create criss-cross marks.

Note: The method above is for rare to medium-rare steaks. If you like your steak medium to well-done, look for signs of blood moving to the surface of the steaks before flipping, and wait for all juices to run clear to indicate an overcooked well-done steak.


The “Lifelong Learning” Problem


We’re a couple of weeks into our spring semester at school, and I’ve had the opportunity to teach a few classes so far. These have been typical one-shot library research classes, although the databases discussed in each session have varied according to the program of study. My perceptions regarding the success of each class have differed, too. In general, the potential for success is the result of the following factor. If the instructor has given both the class and myself an idea of the assignment for which they will be conducting research, then I am able to do a pretty good job of demonstrating the relevance of library resources and teaching the students how to find the information they will need to complete their assignments.

This is all well and good. Plus, I’ve developed some resources like our Best Bets for Finding Articles in Databases LibGuide that breaks down the myriad electronic resources available through our library into simple sets of choices according to the subject area. In the end, however, I’m left with the feeling that the scope of these efforts is limited to the specifics of the courses in which the students find themselves. I find myself asking if I am making any sort of impact on these students outside the classroom. Am I contributing to their ability to be lifelong learners?

In the end, I think I’d rather be teaching our students how to find and use open information resources instead of databases that exist behind paywalls. Free, publicly available resources are what they will most likely use for information after they leave school. Aren’t these the resources I should be teaching our students to find and use?

For starters, everyone should now how to use Google for more than just the most basic keyword searches. Google Scholar and Google Uncle Sam Search.USA.gov are additional variations to explore. Wikipedia is a go-to source for many, and instead of being dismissed, a deeper understanding of the process behind its production should be taught. These suggestions are just a scratch on the surface of what’s out there. More and more journals are being published under an open access model, and they need to be publicized. Social media, whether forums or feeds, provides additional avenues to the information that students can find and use.

I’m certain that these statements merely echo what others have already said, and someone else may be composing the exact same sentiments as I write this. For myself, it’s important to put these ideas into my own words, because it’s with these words that I hope to begin transforming my thoughts into actions. If my real goal is to be the creation of lifelong learners, then our students should be able to make the connection between what I teach and the rest of their lives beyond the research assignment at hand.

I’ll return to the “lifelong learner” issue again, perhaps with more examples and data next time.

Great Tips for Re-thinking Presentations

Amanda French has some good advice for presenters in Challenging the Presentation Paradigm: Publishing Scholarly Presentations, especially for those interested in sharing the contents with others outside of the conference or event.

This ProfHacker post was especially pertinent in light of recent issues our library has had with students printing massive numbers of Powerpoint slides, which their instructors have used as a means of delivering course content rather than as visual aids.

Information Rights and Wrongs

The brouhaha surrounding the release of State Department cables by WikiLeaks has raised a few questions that I’d like explore further.

  1. What is the Constitutional basis for the right of our government to declare certain information secret?
  2. Is the release of classified government information in and of itself seditious?
  3. Where do we draw the line between sedition and political expression?
  4. Does the logic of trade secrets, used by private interests to protect information from others, apply to our governments?

I don’t have fully informed answers to these questions at the moment, but these current events present us with an excellent opportunity for this discussion to occur.